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Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys' Club of Silicon Valley

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For women in tech, Silicon Valley is not a fantasyland where millions of dollars grow on trees. It's a "Brotopia," where men hold all the cards and make all the rules. Vastly outnumbered, women face toxic workplaces rife with discrimination and sexual harassment, where investors take meetings in hot tubs and network at sex parties.

In this powerful exposé, Bloomberg TV journalist Emily Chang reveals how Silicon Valley got so sexist despite its utopian ideals, why bro culture endures despite decades of companies claiming the moral high ground (Don't Be Evil! Connect the World!)--and how women are finally starting to speak out and fight back.

Drawing on her deep network of Silicon Valley insiders, Chang opens the boardroom doors of male-dominated venture capital firms like Kleiner Perkins, the subject of Ellen Pao's high-profile gender discrimination lawsuit, and Sequoia, where a partner once famously said they "won't lower their standards" just to hire women. Interviews with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, and former Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer--who got their start at Google, where just one in five engineers is a woman--reveal just how hard it is to crack the Silicon Ceiling. And Chang shows how women such as former Uber engineer Susan Fowler, entrepreneur Niniane Wang, and game developer Brianna Wu, have risked their careers and sometimes their lives to pave a way for other women.

Silicon Valley's aggressive, misogynistic, work-at-all costs culture has shut women out of the greatest wealth creation in the history of the world. It's time to break up the boys' club. Emily Chang shows us how to fix this toxic culture--to bring down Brotopia, once and for all.

317 pages, Kindle Edition

First published February 6, 2018

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About the author

Emily Chang

1 book118 followers
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Emily Chang is the anchor and executive producer of Bloomberg Technology, a daily TV show focused on global technology and Bloomberg Studio 1.0, where she regularly speaks to top tech executives, investors, and entrepreneurs. She was previously a CNN correspondent based in Beijing and London, and has won five regional Emmy awards for her reporting. She is a graduate of Harvard University and lives in San Francisco with her husband and three children.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 674 reviews
Profile Image for Vlad.
729 reviews33 followers
June 5, 2018
I know how tricky it can be for a white, straight cis-dude to write anything negative about a book like this. I feel that my identity will be held against me, and my review discounted as a result, but I’m going to share a review anyway.

This book is a missed opportunity. So much hype for it. So much interest in it. But so little promise fulfilled.

A big problem with the book is that there’s almost nothing in it you can’t find in many of the articles and reporting of the #metoo movement. The section about sex parties was the most original bit of reporting, but it was already published online.

Regarding that sex party story: it stinks. A friend and former colleague of mine whose honesty I do not doubt tells me that she was at the party, and that it wasn’t anything like the one Emily Chang described, and that she (my friend) would have left if it were anything like that. What’s more, people warned Chang that her story was inaccurate, but she chose to publish it anyway. Maybe not unethical, but probably not quality journalism, either.

That said, this is a a good book to give someone who feels downtrodden by bros and who hasn’t been keeping up with the news. Perhaps a young person in her first job in corporate America struggling with her first encounters with the sexism that pervades our culture. This is also a good book for leaders who haven’t been keeping up with the issues. There’s the rub — if those leaders haven’t cared enough to become enlightened before now, this book isn’t going to end up on their nightstand. I know two CEOs that I’d love to give this book to, but I know neither of them would read it.

My biggest issue with this book is that it’s not thoughtful or deep enough. It doesn’t cover the roots of gendered inequality. It completely avoids talking about the patriarchal behaviors in our broader society. It avoids talking about business culture in general, and the roots of meritocratic ideals (including the redeeming aspects of these ideals). The tech business inherited many of its norms from our broader society, but Chang chose not to touch on the broader cultural context. She stuck narrowly to just tech, and the book is less because of it.

One more thing: the book dangerously agrees with gender essentialist ways of seeing the differences between sexes, and in doing so, it extends sexist behaviors and the justifications used for them. Chang unthinkingly champions stereotypes that suggest the differences we observe between genders derive naturally from our underlying DNA, rather than from thousands of years of cultural baggage.

What I mean by this I learned from the book Testosterone Rex, which I recommend over this book any day. Here’s a quote from Testosterone Rex:

“When we think in essentialist ways about social groups, the differences between them seem large, unbridgeable, inevitable, unchangeable, and ordained by nature. Those who think in gender essentialist ways are more likely to embrace gender stereotypes that are the foundation of intended and unintended discrimination in the workplace. They are more likely to feel negatively toward power-seeking women, relative to men. They are more likely to allocate childcare in a traditional way. They are more likely to prefer that the husband earns more in a heterosexual marriage, and to expect to make traditional work-care tradeoffs. Women encouraged to take a essentialist view of gender become more vulnerable to stereotype threat: the reduction in performance and interest in traditionally masculine domains triggered by negative stereotypes about women. Gender essentialist thinking makes men evaluate sex crimes more leniently, and makes people less supportive of progressive gender policies and feel more comfortable with the status quo.”

Anyway, Brotopia is an OK book overall. I think those of us who have agreed to take responsibility for our own actions and how they impact others are even obligated to read books like this, so I’m glad I read it. But this is no Pulitzer contender, nor even touching memoir, nor brilliantly worded polemic. It’s more like a book-length article than a major contribution to the movement.
Profile Image for Dr. Appu Sasidharan .
944 reviews1,875 followers
April 28, 2022

(Throwback Review) This book shows us the unknown side of silicon valley, where men hold most of the crucial positions and deal with women in a toxic manner. The author tells us about the sexual harassment happening in the MNCs. She also reveals what all things are happening behind the scenes in the networking parties.

It is really encouraging to see women showing the courage to come to the forefront to talk against exploitation. It is also inspiring to see women holding key positions in some tech companies like Facebook and Youtube. The best part of the book is that the author doesn't stop after putting forward the allegations. She also is giving solutions for stopping these exploitations. This is a must-read book for all the women who are working in any tech company.
"The man who is one of the main architects of the culture of Silicon Valley in the last twenty years thinks giving women the right to vote has harmed democracy."
Profile Image for Amy Young.
104 reviews
March 15, 2018
It sucks that the really long review I originally wrote was deleted, but I care about voicing this opinion SO MUCH that I'm willing to give it another go ...

Like other readers expecting an in-depth, revelatory historiography on the tech industry and how it has come to tolerate the behavior that it does, this book is instead a collection of Silicon Valley's most offensive hits, slap-dashed together without more than a cursory/ surface exploration for the profit of the author. This book failed on a lot of fronts, particularly when it came to illustrating any way to change things.

It wasn't all bad: I enjoyed learning that women usually found e-commerce businesses focused on fashion, parenthood, family, or community, and that investors generally hate that. I also enjoyed learning that a particular career aptitude test is to blame for creating the "antisocial coder" stereotype and that polyamory is alive, well, and seemingly contributing to the terrible, sexist "meritocracy" that is the tech industry.


Beyond the monotonous syntax and redundant structure, these are my two main issues: (1) Chang relegates any quantitative arguments and resources to the back of the book, without any indication in the main body of the text that these resources exist, (2) Chang offers no course of action for women in the workforce amid this "dramatic expose" of things we already know. There is no course for those that wish to empower themselves and others. There is so much energy spent discussing the emotional labor of trying to get ahead in toxic work environments that there is no talk whatsoever about how women are moving forward.

Surely, with something as important as this, an index of female-friendly VC firms or incubators or investors would not have been out of place? Surely a collection of free resources and communities to depend upon and build wouldn't have been too much to ask, or a list of organizations you could invest in yourself?

As to the first argument, here is my case in point: When discussing James Damore's Google memo, Chang mentioned the scientific studies referenced in said memo did not indicate the scientific community shared a consensus as to whether nature or nurture influences women's career decisions. She left it at that. Why not discuss those studies, talk to researchers, give some hard numbers for readers to use when next they encounter someone who shares Damore's views? We need talking points. I was surprised that a journalist of Chang's caliber couched such important arguments in personal anecdotes we know already.

How can this be a powerful expose when we already know what's been exposed? How is this helpful? Why was this written and what did I just read, despite a lot of women saying "yeah, it's fricken tough" and moving on? The entire book ended with an awkwardly forced encounter with Girls Who Code participants. Chang said it's a dire situation and basically ended it there.

So I guess my question is - okay, and?
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
3,846 reviews34.9k followers
August 18, 2022
Audiobook….read by the author, Emily Chang (who was great)
…9 hours and 6 minutes

I LOVED LISTENING TO THIS BOOK!!! The title is ‘perfect’….
…..communicates clearly!!!

…I was mad as hell at times—screaming back at the *Bro’s* culture.
There is gender discrimination bleeding on every page.

…My energy is low - low blood pressure- low thyroid- high cholesterol-tied mentally, and physically, ( bouncing back emotionally at least)…
But my goodness this book could get your blood boiling.

This one paragraph is NO JOKE:
…..”For women in tech, Silicon Valley is not a fantasy land of unicorns, virtual reality rainbows, and 3-D printed lollipops, where millions of dollars grow on trees. It’s ‘Brotopia’, where men hold all the cards and make all the rules, vastly outnumbered, women face toxic workplaces rife with discrimination and sexual harassment, where investors take meetings in hot tubs and network at sex parties”.

There’s a 2 star review on Amazon — (could have only been written by a man)…
I checked out his other book reviews.
What I found was interesting.
A 2 star rating for the reviewer was high.
8 other of his recent books were ‘all’ 1 star ratings.
Emily Chang should feel honored to have received the reviewer’s highest book rating.

For those of us who live here and still remember when
Silicon Valley was nothing but fruit orchards, prune yards, cow town — (a hick town vib even in the 70’s)….to the steady sudden growth of ‘new money’ and young ‘boys’ coming out of High School being offered BIG BUCKS —to ‘skip’ college (not to worry- their companies would pay for their college education later)…for their expertises from their ‘hands on’ childhood skills from spending their childhood years living on their computers — skipping hopscotch, sports, music, even recess.
Young ‘boys’ were beyond computer savvy. Many of them were writing software before puberty.

I know of one mother who was soo worried about her son in junior high school (she disapproved of his anti-social-geeky behaviors), that she couldn’t ‘stand’ it any longer. He literally lived on the computer every minute of the day and during sleeping ours. The fight in their house was endless.
So Mom sent him to one of those outward bound camps in the summer (kicking and screaming), where he was not allowed to have any tech devices with him.
The ‘re’ - programming behavior never worked on him —
He began a very successful tech company right out of High School. The kid was as nerdy as they come - but he could have taught those college computer classes from his own 8th grade class.

Many parents, like myself observed many little Steve Wozniak types grow up here (co-founder of Apple computer with Steve Jobs) in this valley.

Men could succeed—it was totally BROTOPIA….
Women on the other hand — were chopped liver!

For anyone who reads “Brotopia”, that is not familiar with the tech Industry, tech culture, tech history, and growth, (Boys club of America) here in Silicon Valley might think this is the last place on earth you’d want to live —
….one just needs to carve out a quiet garden oasis at home ….remember to smell the roses…..
….and remember there are a ‘few’ of us left (men and women) today that have ‘non-techy’ jobs.

If you’re interested in a visual that’s pretty mind-blowing visit (in person) the Apple Park — the 5 billion Apple headquarters here in Silicon Valley.
None of the photos online or YouTube‘s do justice to what you’ll experience in person.
The SIZE is literally mine boggling.

Emily Chang is AWESOME!!!!
….. I enjoyed ‘her’ and her lively spirit in her voice.
Even if you don’t read this book —I suggest taking a few minutes to watch one of her YouTube interviews.
Girltopia is breaking ground!

Brotopia is a work of non fiction …. but listening to Emily Chang read her own book adds an element of storytelling clear-eyed observational fun!
Profile Image for Kimberly.
16 reviews3 followers
March 9, 2018
I couldn't get enough of this book. You don't need to be someone who works in Silicon Valley or identify as female to appreciate this book. As someone who works on the fringe of this world and with many of these companies (and the women & men of Silicon Valley) I found the history lesson incredibly valuable. I appreciated Chang's artful mix of data, anecdote, and interview to paint an informed picture of who, why, what, & how. So, much of the narrative and data validated my own experience in a way that felt incredibly empowering and helpful. I see many of these orange and red flags in some of the organizations that employ me and am hopeful that armed with the information from Brotopia, I will be a better advocate and change-maker for myself and others. I've also requested that the rest of my company read it so that we can have a jumping off place for conversations to address and prevent these pitfalls in our own organization and those we work within. I hope that more works like this come out that delve this directly into the explicit challenges - I would value feeling more informed about the challenges for POC and LGBT in these fields, too.
Profile Image for Dian.
95 reviews1 follower
March 27, 2018
I REALLY wanted to like this book. This is a topic I care a lot about. I called out the CEO of my company at all hands for not having enough women on the leadership team. I read in my neighborhood blog that Emily Chang is a neighbor. She seems rad. I want to be friends with her. But even still...

I had hoped this book would capture what it felt like to be woman working in tech in SV and why women are treated the way they are. It felt like that Emily Chang focused on the big names that she was connected to from working at Bloomberg News. It mostly felt like a rehash of recent women in tech news.

For example, she talks about PayPal mafia and then she talks to Max Levchin about his current company Affirm. He talks about how the environment at Affirm is way different than PayPal. But it's all from Max's perspective...I wanted to read the book where we then hear about the experience from a female engineer on Affirm's team...instead giving platform to another...white male.

You get Sheryl Sandberg instead of that woman working at Facebook contemplating freezing her eggs. It's all the same perspective that you continually hear about in tech news.
Profile Image for Holly Brown.
Author 10 books224 followers
February 13, 2018
This book is well-researched and well-considered. While Silicon Valley has been impacted by #metoo, with some powerful men stepping down from their companies, it's not enough just to think in terms of a few bad apples; the entire culture could use a reboot when it comes to gender relations, equality, and the broadening of the talent pool. It's been shown that diverse teams produce better products (for more on this, I'd recommend another book I just finished and reviewed called "Technically Wrong.") So hopefully, the innovators and disruptors in tech will read this book and heed the call. What's moral is not just good PR; it's also good for business.
Okay, I'm off my soapbox now. I just hope this book finds the readership it deserves.
256 reviews7 followers
July 17, 2018
This was really interesting. While many of us are all aware of sexism (in general and in tech), I learned a lot I didn't know, like how the first few tech companies got started and how the culture at those companies rippled throughout Silicon Valley. And that even good intentions, like Google's commitment to hiring women from the start, don't always go well because it can be hard to maintain those numbers when a business starts growing rapidly. I like that she includes examples from companies that have handled diversity issues poorly and examples from companies that have found success in this area. I would have liked more than a few bullets at the end about what can be done to improve the situation, but otherwise I really enjoyed the book.
Profile Image for Anat Knot.
1 review
February 13, 2018
I had high hopes for this book to be the book that addresses the gender biases in tech and the workplace. I was really hoping that a journalist at Bloomberg could shed some serious light on this timely issue. Instead I found the book to be poorly research and one that mostly read like Page-Six, name dropping and exaggerated story telling. Perhaps she is planning to go work at TMZ. One sentence on page 166 (yes I read the whole book) captures it all “whatever happened, men in technology are finally being held accountable." There it is. She does not care to get a fully story, to verify facts, or to take accountability for erroneous descriptions. I feel confident posting this because I first hand know that there are erroneous descriptions in this book. Hence, I can confidently deduce that the fact checking was loose or absent. Exactly what we need in todays world more fake news taunted as investigative reporting. Sorry Emily but you failed women, journalism and the current gender conversation.
Profile Image for Diego.
95 reviews21 followers
February 26, 2018
This is a well written book. You can tell Emily uses her Bloomberg speaking skills and translates them on paper about an important discussion about the lack of women in technology; this specifically in Silicon Valley. There are reasons for that and it’s the bro environment. Some CEOs and venture capitalists sound like utter douchbags who need punched in the face. They just don’t know how to act. Women are the future of technology; they are needed badly to be involved more with the emergence of Artificial Intelligence. If all men are coding, somehow ego and testosterone will spill in and play a factor; all from douchery. That means a less cohesive and likely violent future for no reason.
This also gets me more excited for Walter Isaacson’s next book on Ada Lovelace.

This pretty much confirms that Peter Thiel is a tool. He got lucky coming out of PayPal and cashing out before the dot com crash, and his mindset is now vilified for why he and his buddies are successful. Had he missed cashing out, he’d be broke like everyone else. But his mindset of being strangely out going about anything is strange. Supporting Trump so aggressively tells you something; he enjoys being an outsider no matter what that takes.

Google did well starting a company by hiring for diversity while knowing of the advantages. Though as they grew extremely fast, their mindset didn’t trickle down to other managers. Their culture has grown worse but at least they are acknowledging their faults.

Uber sounds like a disaster. Douchbags isn’t a terrible enough word to describe employees there. Atrocious environment. Lots of dudes that don’t know how to act in front of women. But it all started at the top and that reflects vertically. Makes me really question the use of the app. The stories are not just regurgitation, but with what Emily and the women discussed in her home. She isn’t just getting stories for a book, she is understanding the issue and reporting to the world from the perspectives of many women in tech.

Harassment extends to Venture Capital firms, whom appear to be enabled by their Limited Partners that fund them. Capitalism rules here since LPs only care about returns and not about ethical business. Sadly this will continue despite LPs being women as well.

It must have been pretty hard to report on chapter 6, pretty appalling how tech employees act during work hours, including the strip clubs and partying. This supposed normal behavior by men marginalizes women in tech. I can’t even imagine what that world is like. Hard to believe Elon Musk and other head founders engage in such strange activity. Not very inspiring if you ask me. In other countries, acting like this is a shame. Yeah you are profiting and “changing the world”, but no reason why you can’t act more appropriately.

Slack appears to be the best case scenario for hiring with diversity in mind, though like others they are falling from grace a bit. It’s impressive to see a founder who was so focused on diversity and empathy for others, this gets lost in the focus and mindset of a CEO in tech. But also other industries as well.

Solutions are presented in the end for existing companies, which are an easy solution but hard to implement. It’s a required change in culture overall. Honestly it sounds like all employees in tech should read “Leadership and Self Deception” and learn about empathy for others.

Emily ends with a discussion with some young female coders in high school and their experiences. I believe the solution lies with the school systems and funding for more coding classes availability. This subject is hardly touched as the solution. Yeah I get that it’s a problem in tech today, but a massive tech industry culture change will take years with continuous effort. Very hard stuff. The solution is to start at the grade schools. Which needs more funding focus. Which means more women also in political offices to enable change.

Important subject and well written.
Profile Image for Mark Miano.
Author 3 books14 followers
March 20, 2018
BROTOPIA: BREAKING UP THE BOYS’ CLUB OF SILICON VALLEY popped onto my reading radar while speaking with a former colleague about her experiences going to B-school (Stanford) and working at a prominent tech firm (Salesforce) in Silicon Valley. My friend’s graduate school project involved collecting and analyzing data about the gender disparity in the tech world. Her research was the basis for a recent cover article in Atlantic Monthly and received a mention in this book by Emily Chang.

Overall, this is a good book - well written, insightful, and interesting (the story about Lena Soderberg, aka Lenna Sjooblom, aka Playboy’s 1972 Miss May, as the “inspiration” for the development of JPEG images is incredible, while also raising much incredulity).

Chang spins story after story of shocking, horrible, outlandish, unacceptable, and boorish behavior by the “Bros” of Silicon Valley. She tells these stories in an interesting way, mostly by going company by company, showing the many mistakes and scandals at tech and VC firms, while also pointing out some of the places and people who have not just tried to bring women and minorities into the tech world, but also make them feel welcome and respected. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of shining examples of success in the latter category.

My only criticisms of the book are that I wish Chang had delved a little further into the data my friend and her colleagues amassed, instead of just providing company vignettes. At times the stories came across as anecdotal, instead of indicative of a systemic problem.

My other criticism is the assumption that the goal in SV and elsewhere should be a 50/50 representation between male and female workers. Is this goal desirable, much less attainable? Shouldn’t the goal be to make women and other non straight white male people feel welcome and respected, instead, no matter what their number is? My reasoning here is that why use 50/50 as a marker at all? What if more (or less) women than 50% want to go into coding and other tech fields? How does this desire in tech play out in other fields - is this truly the goal of all industries to represent people by their numbers in the general population?

Besides those quibbles, I admire Chang’s book, especially her fearlessness when it comes to naming names of men who epitomize the worst of Silicon Valley Bro culture.

Profile Image for Ariel Jackson.
6 reviews5 followers
July 31, 2019
A damning and brutal account of the realities of Silicon Valley, worth a read. but seems to implicitly (and explicitly) suggest that the solution to these problems is to have more women founders/CEOs/executives...when the fundamental problem is the existence of these fucked up platforms, extremely rich companies, and the systemic beliefs that sustain them.

Also, the author spent a lot of time “outing” the gross sex parties and non-monogamy in silicon valley...it borders on moral fearmongering and i’m not convinced it’s relevant
Profile Image for briz.
Author 7 books64 followers
November 9, 2018
This was recommended recently on a Women Who Code Slack I'm on, and it's so, so very on-point. This is basically a timely, up-to-the-minute account of the State of the Patriarchy in Silicon Valley. I didn't mean to crush this (I've been in an anti-reading mood lately), but I did. It was so very readable.

I'd agree with some of the critical reviews that, for those that already follow this issue, much of this is old hat. This book is basically a series of low-lights from the tech sexism of the last 10 years: the Google Memo, the Uber blog post, the "cuddle puddle" sex parties, the abysmal statistics of women coders, women founders, women investors. If you've been paying any attention to any of this stuff at all, it will be mostly old hat.

But! I did enjoy three major things: first, how Chang makes an impassioned argument for how "diversity in tech" has obvious capitalist advantages (e.g. examples of the (profitable!) Stitch Fix founder denied some early VC funding because the (male) investor couldn't possibly imagine anyone wanting that service - HA, HA, HA) and obvious structural importance (i.e. if only one demographic gets to build this brave new world, what will the brave new world look like for the rest of us?).

Second, how Chang identifies some of the "hidden figures" in modern tech - e.g. Susan Wojcicki - and juxtaposes how very hidden and ignored they are, given the (omg so stupid) cult of personality around "genius men" like Steve Jobs.

Third, ohhh how very far up their own asses a lot of these wealthy elite have their heads. Namely, the absolute conviction that they're "breaking down barriers" and "imagining the future" and how this, presumably, licenses them to - errr, repeat tired, old hierarchies. I think specifically of the puerile contrarianism of people like Peter Thiel and his "PayPal [bro] Mafia", and his/their absolute conviction that "diversity" has zero benefits and just dilutes their mystical "meritocracy". A "meritocracy" where - studies have shown - IDENTICAL business pitches using IDENTICAL words read by male or female voices will lead to DIFFERENT OUTCOMES. I mean. Duh. There is ample statistical evidence that demonstrates structural injustices; but there's even a basic philosophical argument to be made: how, OH HOW, can homogeneity guarantee excellence? Variance is the spice of life (and statistical inquiry) - do these bros even science?!

Anyway. All this to say. The tech industry, by the nature of the work, has the ability to remove MANY artificially-imposed barriers that are the detritus of an irrational society of hierarchical apes. As they say, on the Internet, no one knows you're a dog. So things like flexible schedules, remote work, a REAL meritocracy (e.g. pull requests on GitHub were statistically significantly more likely to be accepted if they were written by women WHO HID THEIR GENDERS - citation) - all of this is, ahem, within our grasp. If we can just pull some rich bros' heads out of their asses.
Profile Image for Beth Newhart.
22 reviews
January 20, 2023
Emily Chang spent years writing this book and it shows through every page. The stories she uncovers and facts she shares are wild and the overarching message of severe gender inequality is wildly important. I wish she went a little further beyond "women in Silicon Valley" and explored how race, gender identity and sexuality intersect with tech representation, but I realize this would have likely doubled the book length. That deserves its own book, and she should write that one too. 10/10 would recommend.
Profile Image for Joy Ebertz.
26 reviews
September 12, 2018
I really wanted to like this book. I thought it did a good job of laying out the history and hitting most of the main events in the diversity in tech scene. That said, I thought it was overly sensationalized. While I don't doubt any of the stories told, they aren't quite as prevalent as the book made them seem - I doubt we'd have any women left in this industry (myself included) if that were true. While I don't want to down play how unacceptable any of it is, I also think making it seem like the entire industry is more terrible than it actually is continues to perpetuate the problem by causing the next generation of women to also avoid tech.
Profile Image for Katrina Michie.
53 reviews9 followers
August 12, 2021
Required reading for leadership in tech and advertising

This could have been a word-for-word book about the ad industry. Read this, especially if you are a man in tech or advertising.
Profile Image for Lillian.
5 reviews
April 13, 2019
As someone who works in the tech industry and is on a team with all men I really really REALLY understood and sympathized with the experiences had by the woman in this book.

If your interested at all in the role woman played (or didn’t play) in the evolution of the tech industry then this is a good book for you to read.

It’s a pretty short book, and relatively easy to read, but at times was a little dull and found myself having to reread past paragraphs to remember what point the author was trying to make.

Would I recommend this book to someone who is not in the technology industry? Probably not. I think this book will really speak to women, and men, who work in the technology industry... or perhaps who want to work in the industry. For those that don’t work in the tech industry, I don’t think they’d find this book all that interesting.
Profile Image for Katherine.
6 reviews1 follower
July 26, 2020
I appreciate this book a lot and hope the ppl (and especially the men) in my community read this or something like it. As a woman who just graduated from a super male-dominated software engineering program and who has been the one woman in the room more times than I can count, many of these stories and lessons were familiar. Even so, I still thought it gave me clarity and context, showing the patterns, causes, effects, and history of tech's inhospitable environment for women and basically everyone else who happens to not be a white cis man
Profile Image for Ola.
164 reviews15 followers
May 19, 2019
Brotopia by Emily Chang is a decent, but very surface level, examination of Silicon Valley’s misogynist culture. Considering the significance of the topic, Brotopia feels like a missed opportunity to expose and critique the tech industry in a productive way; instead, I felt that only summaries were given on most topics.

Not to say that there were no interesting sections. The beginning of the book, which describes the evolution of the tech industry in the 1960s, was a beneficial history lesson on how the misogyny seeds were first sowed. Likewise, the critique of PayPal’s male “meritocracy” contrasted with Google’s focus on hiring women was also a highlight. Afterward, however, Brotopia’s promising looks at VCs or managing motherhood (for example), failed to follow through with any impactful insight or resolution. Right when the topic summary was over and I started getting invested and curious on the issue, it seemed like the chapter ended and Chang moved on to another subject.

Brotopia is a sufficient introduction into the tech industry’s shortfalls but too many equally interesting topics are fit into this short book. The result is an insubstantial critique short of meaningful solutions beyond the vague “we must do better.”
Profile Image for Alok Talekar.
80 reviews11 followers
February 18, 2018
I wish this book was less biased and more researched - it seemed like emily just wanted to make money off of metoo and wave of feminism. Lots of highly cherrypicked incidents. It is surprising that she doesn't bring up bloomberg culture.
Profile Image for Hina.
130 reviews24 followers
August 7, 2018
On the surface, this is a compelling book that sheds light on one of the biggest social issues of our time and attempts to dissect what the root of the problem is. But if you think about the arguments presented in a little more depth, many of the claims don’t seem to hold up.

I first read about this book when Vanity Fair published part of the chapter on sex parties. At first, it seemed like this book was going to blow the lid off Silicon Valley’s darkest secrets and prove that many of the things people thought went on there were, in fact, true. Reading the book in its entirely now, it feels like the author did want to go for shock value and make sweeping assumptions based on what she felt, and more importantly, how people want to feel about Silicon Valley and tech in general.

One of the things I least enjoyed about the book was the heavy use of “social justice” language and buzzwords that carry political punch, but have been so over-used they’ve lost their potency. Words like ‘white privilege’, ‘diversity’, ‘inclusion’, ‘problematic’, ‘bias’, ‘marginalized’ and other phrases that just made me cringe were used quite often and took away from the author’s credibility in my view.

Another glaring issue in the book was how Chang just glosses over the non-trivial role powerful women in tech have played in preventing “gender equality from reaching 50/50”. One of the biggest examples comes in the mid-point of the book when Chang shares that LPs (which are investors that fund VCs) have more women in senior roles than VC funds do, and that these women themselves aren’t interested in solving the gender disparity problem in Silicon Valley (and actually contribute to funding more male CEOs than female CEOs). And in the same light, Chang doesn’t at all address the fact that many women in the sex parties willingly choose to attend those, knowing well what goes on there. There’s also this idea that women are doing what they’re doing to “make their lives better” and are some sort of victims that have no choice but to take drugs and engage in orgies all for the sake of paying their rent.

Furthermore, Chang conveniently only interviews people who happen to share her points of view and tell her exactly what she needs to know in order to further the narrative of her book. I found it really strange that many of the people she interviewed said exactly what they needed to say to prove the point she wanted to make. And the people she talked to who acted or spoke in a way that went against the narrative she wanted were portrayed as fratty juveniles and their words constructed to make them seem less “empathetic” to the women’s cause. I wouldn’t say this was as balanced a read as it could have been.

Having said all this, I really enjoyed the history of how Silicon Valley came to be, and why there were more women involved in tech in the 1960s and 1970s than there are today. I absolutely do think there is a problem in tech, and that people in positions of power have abused their power and made decisions that would create a more man-friendly work environment. There are lots of case studies from tech companies in the book and how they approached the gender issue in their own ways to various results. Google, Uber, Slack, and Facebook are the main companies whose policies around ‘diversity’ are looked at in close detail.

In closing, many of the problems in tech aren’t just limited to women, but that’s the argument Chang wanted to make. My husband is a software engineer and I’ve lived in and seen Silicon Valley from the inside. The issues in the book about how tech doesn’t allow people to have “work life balance” or expects workers to work 60 hour weeks isn’t just limited to women. The tech industry seems to thrive on certain kinds of workers - single, unattached men in their late 20 - mid 30s. Other than that, everyone is at a disadvantage, including older men, and men with families. To make it seem like these are just issues facing women is dishonest and ultimately undermines the very valid argument Chang is trying to make.
175 reviews1 follower
July 11, 2018
This was a good book about the ways sexism runs rampant in the tech world. I don't think it broke any major new ground, but it was certainly an interesting overview of all the ways women are missing out on enormous opportunities for wealth and satisfying careers. It had many specific anecdotes from the author's deep connections in the tech world. I'd recommend it to people who are sitting around thinking "boy, it sure would be a lot easier to be a woman in this day and age, I'm so discriminated against as a white man."
Profile Image for Douglass Gaking.
373 reviews1,699 followers
December 29, 2018
Men do so many things that seem harmless without realizing the impact they have on the women they work with. Emily Chang shows how the leadership in Silicon Valley firms–sometimes deliberately and other times more subtly–treated women horribly and made it difficult for them to advance professionally. This is an important read for anyone who takes leadership roles in their career.
Profile Image for Dav.
248 reviews19 followers
April 25, 2018
This is probably the most important book ever written about Silicon Valley. It's also very well written and very much a part of the current zeitgeist.
Profile Image for jasmine sun.
128 reviews138 followers
March 4, 2019
good and really interesting overview of both cultural and structural factors that alienate women in the tech industry. lots of interviews with insiders, narrative examples.

probably not shocking for women already familiar with valley dynamics, but highly recommended for men in tech and those outside the area. can be a little overly identity politics ish at times, specifically re sheryl sandberg worship
Profile Image for David.
Author 17 books333 followers
November 6, 2019
Sigh. This is not a rigorous analysis of gender discrimination in Silicon Valley. It's a screed about nerds and rich dudes.

I found myself sighing throughout Brotopia, because it felt like the author was just going through a checklist of complaints. When Yahoo! tanked under Marissa Mayer, she was blamed because of sexism. Okay, in fairness probably nobody could have saved Yahoo! - it's been a dead brand walking for years. But Emily Chang doesn't really cite any "sexist" condemnation of Meyers, just notes that she got a lot of flack for failing to save Yahoo!, and speculates that a man would have gotten less.

Most of the topics Chang covers are familiar ground for anyone who's aware of the various gender-related controversies that have roiled the tech industry the past few years. Chang touches on it all: the James Damore memo, GamerGate, a long list of venture capitalists, tech moguls, and other bigwigs in Silicon Valley caught in some kind of scandal (usually banging an employee). There is of course much to legitimately complain about, but here is my problem with Brotopia: Chang does what many critics of "the tech industry" do, and lists all the historical grievances women have had (which are are numerous and real) and attributes them as if unique, or uniquely bad, in the tech industry. Even when she makes a nod to the historical reality, like, "Well yes, rich men have always had young, pretty mistresses," she still indicts the tech industry for being somehow worse. The closest she comes to substantiating this is with one study claiming that Silicon Valley's numbers are worse than Wall Street's when it comes to women in top positions.

Chang uncritically presents ideas that have permeated popular culture from the Implicit Association Test (whose credibility, much like the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment, has come under fire despite it being a mainstay of psychological studies for two decades) to that mythical 72 cents on the dollar that women make as if it is settled science and not juggling of facts and numbers to present a particular view of the world.

She lost me a bit with her starting premise: that right from the beginning, the computer science field "deliberately selected" for anti-social men who were good at solving puzzles, leading to a particular type of sexist man who's hostile to women (just say it, Emily: nerds) who then kept women out. Besides this dubious theory that such selection was by design, she never even considers that maybe computer science actually does attract a certain type of personality and a brain wired for certain types of thinking (note: not necessarily a "male" brain!).

This, incidentally, was a shorter version of the much-maligned James Damore's infamous memo, who Chang, like most people, claims said that women are neurotic and biologically unsuitable to be engineers and programmers. He didn't say that. He did say that there was evidence that there exist biological differences between men and women that extend to their brains, and that it was possible that the sort of brain that's good at certain tasks, like programming, is more often found in men. Agree with this or disagree with it, his actual point was more nuanced and a lot less misogynistic than Chang and others have represented.

Since Chang narrates her own audiobook, her bias is literally audible when she quotes Damore. His critics, she reads in a fairly straightforward manner, but when quoting Damore, she projects a whiny, belligerent tone to his words.

The "myth of meritocracy" is another topic that has become controversial in the tech world, and Chang takes this one on as well. Traditionally, tech companies have had a policy that says essentially "hire the best and brightest regardless of sex, race, etc." It sounds very egalitarian and makes sense on the surface, but Chang rightly brings up all the ways that this perception of "merit" can be biased, and what a disadvantage women and minorities have had to obtain signifiers of this merit, such as degrees from prestigious universities. It's quite reasonable to question why your "meritocracy" just happens to be almost entirely white men. On the other hand, she gives very little consideration to the question of whether the representation of women and minorities is proportionate to the available pool, other than acknowledging that the pipeline is a problem and more effort must be made to get people other than white dudes into it. That "diversity is better" is an article of faith in HR companies today, but this is for the most part a moral argument that is presented as a logical one; actual diversity studies have given indifferent results so far.

But Chang really, really hates meritocracies, almost as much as she hates nerdy men. When she starts talking about Silicon Valley high-rollers and their "cuddle parties," the venom really spills out. The most salacious portion of her book was excerpted in Vanity Fair, telling tales of sex parties and rich venture capitalists and their harems as if this was a shocking thing. Chang acknowledges that rich guys using their wealth to get with beautiful women is a tale as old as time, and yet she seems offended and outraged that this happens in California too, even when the rich guys are supposedly modern, enlightened progressives. She interviews attractive young women who date these rich guys and are very upset that getting a rich guy to settle down and marry you is sometimes difficult. Ahem.

I'm going to be a tad uncharitable here, but from the tone of Chang's comments and the words of her interview subjects, it was hard not to read a lot of resentment at wealthy nerds who should be grateful for scoring women out of their league. Like, sorry, you can't chase rich nerds because they're rich and then get pissed off because they have actually realized that being rich means hot women will chase them. Does this make relationships seem pretty transactional and reinforce a lot of very cliched old stereotypes? Yes, but it takes two to tango, babe.

Now, you might feel like I'm not being fair to the topic because I'm a white guy, and also in the tech industry (though certainly not in the rarefied circles Chang talks about; hell, Chang is one of the elites compared to me). It's not that I don't think sexism exists, or that I am against diversity, or that I think girlz cant code. Quite the contrary. But this was just a weak, polemical book, and while it may be a little unfair to compare a journalist to a neuroscientist, I think Cordelia Fine does so much better addressing this topic. Brotopia has very little insight or original thought; it's mostly outrage strung together with anecdotes.
Profile Image for Erin.
211 reviews52 followers
September 19, 2020
Reading this book was like reading chapters of my own life in information technology. Brilliantly researched and written. For anyone asking 'what's it really like for women in business" give them this to read.
13 reviews
April 30, 2021
This book was the first for me that really illuminated the white male dominance in the tech industry, and how it has impacted women in tech. Maybe now, several years later, it's much more widely recognized and being reckoned with, but this book is still a great read. Good research behind it.
Profile Image for Marks54.
1,304 reviews1,148 followers
February 24, 2018
This is a book by a journalist associated with Bloomberg Technology that provides an update on gender issues in the technology sector - in particular why tech has been and remains a lousy place for women and what can be done about it.

It is sometimes difficult to rate an effort like this, since most if not all of what is included has been covered elsewhere - and the stories recounted here have been well covered. It is certainly a good time to produce a book like this, since major controversies regarding women and technology have been exploding in the past few years across companies, often involving litigation (which has the advantage of providing lots of possible content for authors to source if they wish). The downside of an effort like this is the question of “so what is new here?”, especially in stories about and flowering within social media and on the web. Add to this the more general flood of stories and claims associated with #metoo and the issue quickly becomes not what to write but how to filter and interpret. These days one needs to avoid the curse of TLDNR (too long, did not read).

Ms. Chang has done an admirable job here. She is a fine writer and a skilled interviewer. I think she has done her homework, although this is not an issue of whether the book is sufficiently researched. It is researched more than enough for what she is attempting to accomplish and those wishing to challenge her points can easily track down how well she has done her homework.

The issue for me in evaluating the book is looking at Ms. Chang’s perspective in trying to make sense of gender issues here. The issues and events that break through to catch public attention almost always involve the possible for elaborate comparisons of competing claims. Look at the case of the recent “Google memo” on biological differences in tech work for a good example. Some of the other controversies are sensitive concerning personal disclosures/details and concerning who chooses to step forward and speak up and who does not (and why). Finally, this is an area with extraordinary public players who have crafted their own positions, from Peter Thiel and the “PayPal Mafia” to the women executives from Google who have moved on the further stardom. How does an author stake out a position in such a contentious public arena?

Ms. Chang takes the position that the hostile environment facing women in tech is due to choices made in the tech business and its supply chain, choices based on unsubstantiated premises and whose linkages to performance by individuals or firms are far from clear. There is nothing necessary in the derogation of women in tech and there is no need for bad choices and toxic subcultures to be perpetuated. Little will be lost and much potentially gained. There is little basis for thinking that catering to the negatives of “bro” culture leads to better results or greater innovation and lots of reasons to think that such catering is harmful rather than productive. And if the “Boys’ Club” culture of Silicon Valley is the result of arbitrary choices rather than biological necessity, than it can also be changed.

This is a perspective that is reasonable, consistent with research results, and conducive to the crafting of changes to improve the fit for women in tech. Ms. Chang does not really go into remedies in depth besides the coverage in the last few chapters. Maybe she can do that in her next book.

Chang’s book is timely and helpful in a public debate. This makes the book a cut above the typical journalistic trade update. It is an easy read and well worth the time.
Profile Image for Olga.
519 reviews55 followers
December 17, 2018
I’d picked up “Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley” because the subject matter felt relevant in today’s day and age but ultimately, I felt disappointed by the material. In full disclosure, I read over halfway through the book and ended up putting it down.

I didn’t feel that it covered new ground from what I’ve read already about the big technological companies and female employees. Some of it read like a summary rather than an exploration of the issues, and there were instances where I thought she interviewed male individuals and obtained a sound bite rather than delving into the opportunity for research and counter their point, like when the Google Memo came up. I also thought the writer didn’t focus enough on WOC and their inability to break into technology, aside from one brief section. There were a few interesting chapters, like when she organized a dinner for female engineers and discussed the issues. Or when the writer discussed how more female leadership could have prevented certain crises. It felt more important to me than reading pages on Peter Thiel.
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